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April 18, 2016

Haaretz Validates Bernie with Bad Information

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Bernie Sanders’s anti-Israel comments at April 15’s presidential debate -- he insisted that Israel’s military action in Gaza in 2014 was “a disproportionate attack” -- were met with a media storm of praise. From Vox to The New Yorker, Sanders was praised for “breaking the taboo” on the approach of the United States to Israel. Perhaps most egregious in its coverage was Haaretz, stating flat-out and erroneously in the headline, “Bernie Sanders Got It Right. Israel Did Use Disproportionate Force in Gaza.” The article was riddled with factual misrepresentations and inaccuracies that seek to validate Sanders’ comments.

Proposing to detail "What really happened in Gaza,” Haaretz leans on sources that are less than credible:

According to the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), a coordination body of over 80 international NGOs, Protective Edge "caused the most acute humanitarian crisis in Gaza in at least the past 50 years.” In 2015, the Associated Press looked into 247 Israeli airstrikes that hit residential compounds during the war, and found that over 60 percent of those killed during the attacks were children, women and older men, all of them most likely civilians. The airstrikes devastated Gaza to such a degree that in September a UN report warned that by 2020 Gaza could become “uninhabitable.”

A number of hospitals were indeed bombed during the war, as Sanders points out. Israel claims they served as Hamas strongholds, and were used as launch sites for rocket attacks. Schools were also hit, as were refugee camps. (Gaza itself, crumbling under the weight of a suffocating eight-year blockade and three devastating wars and 50 years of occupation, is arguably the world’s largest refugee camp.)

AIDA states its mission is to “better address the rights of the Palestinian people,” but harbors the broader goal of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel in the international arena, as the NGO Monitor reveals. Many of the organizations on AIDA’s member list are active BDS supporters and known for having a distorted perspective on Israel. One member, Islamic Relief Worldwide, was declared to be illegal by Israel’s Defense Minister due to its financial support of the terrorist organization Hamas. Other well-known anti-Israel organizations that are part of AIDA include CARE International, Oxfam, and the Carter Center. As CAMERA has reported, here, here, and here, these NGOs and their leadership do not take a balanced, truthful approach when it comes to Israel. Yet, Haaretz cites as evidence the statement made by AIDA.

As for the 2015 AP report quoted, The Observer revealed that the AP relied on Hamas officials for information on figures and details of circumstances, arguing points that keep entirely to the Hamas script. The Observer’s headline and subhead say it all:

How the AP Botched Its Investigation of Civilian Deaths in the Israel-Hamas War

Posed photographs. Intentional miscategorizations. Buried corrections. One-sided sourcing. Cherry-picked quotes. And a just-plain-wrong conclusion about "most" Gaza casualties being civilians.

Haaretz refers to the Hamas-admitted facts that the terrorist group launches attacks from hospitals and schools as mere Israeli “claims,” before stating that Gaza has been suffering under "50 years of occupation,” even though Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005.

Haaretz professes to be making statements of fact, but the newspaper's description of Israel's military action in 2014 fails to hold up to journalistic guidelines of doing due diligence in checking sources. Relying on shoddy information, Haaretz comes to the mistaken conclusion that while Israel has a right to defend itself, "Bernie Sanders Got It Right” that Israel had a “policy" of disproportionate response in 2014.

Why is the political rhetoric of Bernie Sanders, and Haaretz’s endorsement of it important? Because use of “disproportionate force” is a war crime. And in the case of Operation Protective Edge, it clearly does not apply.

As laid out in a comprehensive Tablet article “Everything You Need to Know about International Law and the Gaza War" (well worth reading in its entirety):

When a country goes to war, it is allowed to use as much force as is necessary to stop the threat that caused it to go to war to begin with, and does not have to limit itself to the same means or level of intensity used by the enemy. While necessity determines the situations allowing a state to use some form of armed force, proportionality determines the breadth of that permissible force. The intensity of a state’s response is governed by the magnitude of the threat posed to it by the enemy that attacked it, and not of the individual attacks it suffered.

So, the measuring stick of proportionality can’t be the tit-for-tat analysis of death tolls popularly presented in the media. Israel is not obligated to employ only the lightest means at its disposal against Hamas, whose military might pales in comparison. Israel is also not obligated to ensure that the death count on both sides is close to equal. That would be absurd.

--Rachel Frommer, CAMERA Intern

Posted by SC at April 18, 2016 10:56 AM

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